My favorite Christmas carol is “O Holy Night.” I look forward to it each year. I was thinking about it again today, and discovered a troubling line…
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
That last line stopped me: “And the soul felt it’s worth.”
Does your soul feel its worth? You hear a carol, you see a manger scene and your attention is turned for a moment. But, does your soul feels it’s worth?
I think we celebrate Christmas in a vacuum.
We do our best to turn our attention to Jesus. But I think we forget what His coming was for.
Christmas is a rescue. God coming to rescue us. It's an act of love like never seen before. But the act does not take place in a vacuum. It does show his greatness but that's not all.His coming had purpose to it, the purpose was you and me; the purpose was to bring us back to Him.
Why have we lost sight of that?
I think in part it’s because of wrong doctrine, even though it sounds really good, call it something like the doctrine of “the worthlessness of the rescued shows the surpassing greatness of the rescuer."
The idea is that in order to promote the glory of God we must give no worth to ourselves. Thus the popular phrase, “I’m just a sinner, saved by grace.” Or, “It’s not about you; it’s about Jesus.”
The doctrine is deeply ingrained in the church, and deeply damaging to our relationship with God. Because it is NOT true.
Think about it
You ask me to show you pictures of my kids and grand-kids. “They are useless,” I say to you. “That is what makes me such a great father and grandfather. I love such worthless creatures in order to prove what an awesome father I am.” What would we think of me?
What would you think of me if I said to my children, “You are lucky to be here. You ought to thank me because I even care about such a worthless creature as you.” Wouldn’t we call that child abuse? Wouldn’t you call that kind of parenting abusive? What would you call me?
Of course, we are to worship God. Of course, he is worthy to be worshiped. But something has slipped into our understanding that is very damaging, both to our view of God and our relationship with him.
Your car battery is dead. But it’s late and snowing. You call a friend, hating to bother them but in need of help. They jump out of bed and come to help. It’s nice to know how much you matter to them? Doesn’t it deepen the friendship? Now… wouldn’t it be awful if they said to you, “You don’t deserve this. I do this to show how good I am.”
Or, “I love you.” It does something to your soul to hear those words? You realize how much you matter to the one who spoke them. But… if they continued, “It’s nothing in you that makes me love you. It’s my goodness that causes me to love. In fact, your utter unworthiness of my love only proves how good I am for loving you. Don’t you ever forget that.”
It’s true. We didn’t deserve God to come and rescue us. That is true.
But it does not follow that we are worthless, and that it is our worthlessness that makes him worthy. The child who turns his back on the family, runs away, winds up in jail doesn’t deserve to be bailed out.
But love doesn’t think in terms of deserve or not deserve. Love thinks in terms of VALUE. The lost child still matters to their parents. They may be a mess, but they still have value and worth. And when they are bailed out the child knows that they matter. They know they are loved.
"for God so loved the world..."
Something profound happens when a person know they matter, when they know they are valued. It changes them. There is no longer any room for fear. They know they are loved, and it produces love in return.
Someone who is rescued has deep gratitude to the rescuer. “You would do this for me?” But if their rescuer said, “I did not do this for you; I did this for me. I did it to prove my greatness. In fact, your complete unworthiness to be rescued is part of my plan to show my greatness.”
What would you think?
Christmas is the most stunning rescue story of all time.
One night, God comes to earth as a little boy. He came to rescue us. He came bail out and restore those He loves. The beauty of that leaves me breathless.
And what about the ones He came to rescue? How precious are they?
And that is why the soul felt its worth.
Let's get rid of this doctrine of “the worthlessness of the rescued shows the surpassing greatness of the rescuer.” That is not how Jesus saw it. That is not the language of love.
Tonight, celebrate Christmas for what it is – a daring rescue. In the context of love. Be stunned at the way God works. Fall in love again with His amazing heart. Allow yourself to experience a deep shift in your soul, as you come to feel your worth.